ABs ‘love playing Boks’

Dane Coles says the All Blacks remain determined to push themselves to the limit in this Saturday’s Test against the Springboks at Kings Park, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Durban.

When the All Blacks hooker fronted up to the media this week, he looked rather weary after the long-haul flight from Argentina, while sporting a considerable cut across the forehead as evidence of their hard-fought battle against the Pumas last Saturday.

Coles is one of the All Blacks players who has been in simply unstoppable form this season, having made 132m, beaten 10 defenders, executed seven clean breaks, scored two tries and provided assists for three others, while also impressing at the set pieces.

Worryingly for the Boks, though, the word from Coles, and out of the All Blacks camp this week, suggests the Kiwis are in no mood to take their foot off the pedal after recording 16 successive wins.

‘We love playing the Boks, it’s always one of the best Test matches of the year, and we’re expecting that again,' he commented from the All Blacks' team hotel in Umhlanga. 'It provides an opportunity to take yourself to the limit, and we know we will need to do that again this Saturday. I’m sure there will be a hostile crowd at Kings Park that will be right behind the Boks.’

The All Blacks’ emphatic win over Argentina this past weekend was their fifth successive bonus-point win in the Rugby Championship, while it's left them just two matches away from the all-time top-tier Test record of 17 consecutive victories (shared by the All Blacks and Boks).

It serves as another considerable incentive for a side that has not tasted defeat since last August.

‘Each time we prepare for a Test, our reviews are extremely honest, and we start again from zero,’ Coles insisted. ‘The pride in the jersey motivates us and makes a big difference. We want to leave the jersey in a better place, so we’re determined to keep our feet on the ground and stay humble.’

On a personal level, Coles is set to scrum down opposite Bok captain Adriaan Strauss, who has had to shoulder a fair amount of criticism since the start of the year.

However, Strauss responded with a Man of the Match performance against the Wallabies last Saturday, and received a ringing endorsement from his All Blacks counterpart.

‘I believe he’s one of the world’s best hookers. He really led from the front on Saturday, and played well in all areas, while the set piece was very strong. For a hooker to play 80 minutes it really takes it out of you, but he continues to front up. The best way for a team to improve is for your captain to perform like that, so I’m sure that will give the Boks a big lift.’

Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images

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Craig Lewis